I have to admit, in my half-assed effort to recap old Degrassi episodes, I was going to cherry pick stuff I remembered from Degrassi Jr. High and then go on to cover probably all of Degrassi High because I have all of that series on DVD and have watched it enough times in the last few years that I can probably pick off an episode at random. Besides, YouTube only had the first 26 or so episodes of DJH available and that was it. However, Hulu has the rest of them, and as I browsed through the titles I was reminded of how much of the show’s final season (before high school) I actually did watch.
Arguably the most famous storyline on Degrassi Junior High‘s second season is Spike’s pregnancy, which wound up providing the impetus for Degrassi: The Next Generation nearly fifteen years later (but enough about that for now). The thing is, while I knew that Spike was the pregnant teenager on Degrassi Junior High whenever I managed to catch an episode, I never actually saw the episode where she got pregnant, nor did I see the ones where her pregnancy became a huge scandal and she had to fight to stay in school. During those first two seasons, I saw a smattering of episodes and all I knew was that the show was about Arthur, Yick, Stephanie Kaye, the twins (whom I couldn’t tell apart), and the guys in the band The Zit Remedy.
Which is why I am probably sure that while I saw some of those second season episodes, I didn’t really remember any until the next season rolled around. There were few exceptions, and one of them was the second season finale, “Pass Tense.”
When the episode opens, it’s finals and Wheels is freaking out about his upcoming tests. He’s been having a pretty tough year academically and doesn’t want to risk being left behind. Meanwhile, everyone else is getting ready for the big eighth grade dance, as it’s their time to graduate to the local high school. Except, well, they won’t. City-wide overcrowding has resulted in the administration making the decision to keep the ninth grade at Degrassi Junior High next year, which puts a huge damper on the eighth graders’ celebration, especially when the seventh graders (led for the most part by Caitlin Ryan) decide that they are not going to be decoration monkeys anymore. But the show must go on (and the seventh graders get to attend as “payment” for doing the decorations) , especially when that show includes the first-ever performance by The Zit Remedy.
I think that anyone with a passing knowledge of Degrassi knows The Zit Remedy, which was the band comprised of Joey Jeremiah on keyboards, Derek “Wheels” Wheeler on bass, and Archie “Snake” Simpson on guitar. They had one song and only one song, the immortal, “Everybody Wants Something” (which in itself would be the title of an episode of Degrassi High, so when I get around to that one, I’ll talk more about it). This dance, according to Joey, was going to be their big break and throughout the episode he seemed to have a “Today Degrassi, tomorrow the world!” attitude. Until, that is, Mr. Raditch pulls him aside and tells him that he has failed eighth grade and will repeat.
It was a very pivotal episode for Joey for two reasons: first, you could tell that he was being hit pretty hard with reality here, and the fact that he was … well, slower than everyone else would define his character for most of the rest of the series. He also starts to take an interest in Caitlin, and that would … well, that’s “the relationship.” It’s a very quick moment at the dance at the end, but enough to suggest that something would go on between the two at some point in the coming year. And I have to admit that this was around the time that I started noticing Caitlin. I’m pretty sure that Stacie Mistysyn, the actress who played her, was my first real actress crush, which probably explains A LOT.
Anyway, The Zit Remedy plays the dance and “Everybody Wants Something” causes Spike to go into labor. Okay, maybe it doesn’t, but the show and the season end with her having contractions, so it’s safe to say that by the time the ninth graders reluctantly return, the pregnancy will be over and she’ll be dealing with motherhood.
I am not entirely sure that this is one of the episodes that I remember as a landmark for when I started seriously–as in every day it was on Channel 13–watching the show, but seeing it now the writers made it really accessible for someone who at the time was around the same age as the younger characters. The seventh graders seem obsessed with the fact that the eighth graders walk all over them and that they won’t be the “heads” of the school the following year. I can relate, in the opposite manner–I went to a 7-8-9 junior high but was moved up to the high school when I started ninth grade so I was denied the “heads” of the school thing that year. It’s a trivial thing when you think about it (though I just blame that for all of my emotional issues now), but that’s the type of stuff you got upset about when you were in junior high. I like that though the characters were dealing with mature topics, they were still shown to be … well, to be kids.
You can watch all of “Pass Tense” on Hulu here … and I’ll be diving into season 3 of DJH and all of Degrassi High from time to time on this blog.